Lisa Leslie says WNBA players “need to look like women”

In her post-game interview last night, now-retired center Lisa Leslie made the following comments about WNBA players:

Leslie: “Also another important message is how we represent ourselves as women. We need to look like women; it’s important how we carry ourselves, how we dress on and off the court. A lot of these things have to be addressed and continue to be addressed because we are the product, and it’s important.

People want to see a good product. They do. That’s just the bottom line. And you need to be marketable and I think that more women need to understand that here in our league.”

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In a business sense, Leslie is correct in that the WNBA is a product that has to be marketable. But her implications are way off base.

She doesn’t explain what “looking like women” means in her mind, but it’s indicative by her own dress: hair ribbons on the court and femmey clothing off of it. That’s her style and it works for her, but that’s not the style of all WNBA players.

Take Seimone Augustus and Sylvia Fowles. Both wear boyish and/or men’s clothing because that’s their style, and they make it look damn good. Putting a bow in the hair of either woman would look ridiculous and contrived, as would seeing them in the short-shorts Leslie has been photographed in around her home. It’s not them, and to pretend it is would be a lie.

Her own teammate Betty Lennox – who Leslie seems to get along with extremely well – also isn’t a girly girl in any way. Does Leslie think Betty should get all dolled up like her?

I chided Leslie in this space earlier in the season when she was quoted in a Sparks game program giving herself props for maintaining her femininity over her long career. I’m going to repeat myself here: if being feminine is your style and your personality, go fot it. But if it’s not, don’t do it. Just be yourself.

Women have a hard time being ourselves, and other places in the world are much worse. I wish Leslie, with all her influence, had said instead: there’s a place in the WNBA for every great player, whether she’s a tomboy, a foofoo, or somewhere in between. You are perfectly wonderful just the way you are.

You missed a great opportunity to give girls some validation as people, Lisa Leslie.